The Conservative Party is the largest right-of-center party in the United Kingdom, and is one of that country's three major political parties. Its full official name is the Conservative and Unionist Party, and it is commonly referred to as the Tory Party after its historical predecessor. Its current leader as of July 13, 2016 is Theresa May. Aside from moderate fiscal conservatism, there is little actually conservative about the modern party which is, along with all the main political parties in the UK, pro-abortion, pro-same sex "marriage" and pro-gun control.
British conservatism has its own distinctive tradition, separate both from that of continental European conservatism and from that of American conservatism. Traditional British conservatism is rooted in pragmatism, practicality and concrete experience: this reflects a broader historical preference in British culture for the practical over the theoretical and for the concrete over the abstract. In continental Europe, many conservatives in past times, such as the Frenchman Joseph de Maistre, were strongly ideological and defended causes such as absolute monarchy and Roman Catholicism. By contrast, the heroes of British conservatism (such as Sir Edmund Burke in the eighteenth century, Sir Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli in the nineteenth, and Sir Winston Churchill in the twentieth) were moderate, pragmatic and non-ideological. While a more ideological strand of conservatism was in the ascendant during the leadership of Lady Thatcher (1975-1990), the older, pragmatic trend has reasserted itself in more recent years.
History since 1978
1980s and 90s
- See also: Margaret Thatcher
The modern British Conservative Party ran the United Kingdom for nearly 20 years, beginning with Margaret Thatcher's victory for the Party in 1979. She came into office facing a British economy that had been crippled by industrial disputes, strikes, high unemployment, and collapsing public services, especially during the so-called 'Winter of Discontent' of 1978-9. Mrs. Thatcher turned that around, broke the iron grip of the trade unions, and restored the British economy to a free enterprise system that has continued to this day. She was succeeded by John Major in 1990, and, to the surprise of the media, Major won the general election in 1992 and extended the Conservative Party's power until 1997.
By 1997 the Labour Party had finally embraced the more conservative direction for the country and abandoned many of its socialist economic policies of the past. Economic difficulties, including a dispute over whether the UK should join the currency of the European Union, hurt the Conservative Party further. This was coupled with a perception that the party had become corrupt, with a number of high-profile members of the party being involved in financial and sexual scandals. The Labour Party won in a landslide in 1997 and held power until 2010.
Major was soon after replaced by William Hague, whose election as party leader was seen as an affirmation that the party wanted to continue with its Thatcherite policies. Hague was the victim of smears and attacks by a media which became Labour-biased to an extent never before seen in British history, and any attempt he made to state his policies or attack the government was routinely ignored (the UK has media regulations similar to the Fairness Doctrine, but does not regulate what the media are supposed to report, only how much time they allocate to each party). The 2001 election went little better than the previous for the Conservatives, for which Hague accepted responsibility and stepped down as leader. Iain Duncan Smith replaced Hague, seemingly getting elected for no reason other than the fact that he was endorsed by Thatcher, and made no real impact as party leader. After passing up chances to attack the government for their role in Operation Iraqi Freedom (which had far less support in the UK than it did in the US), the party decided that enough was enough and Duncan Smith was removed as leader in late 2003. Michael Howard was seen by many as the only possible man to take the Conservatives forward, and was elected as the new party leader without opposition. A far more adept period of leadership saw a recovery at the 2005 election, halving Labour's majority in the House of Commons. A few weeks later, Howard announced that while the recovery of the Conservative Party had begun, he had done all he could as party leader, and so would step down once a successor had been elected.
Moderate shift and David Cameron
- See also: David Cameron
Since the early 2000s, the Conservative Party leaders have softened its conservative stance on social and fiscal issues, and this has increased its popularity with the voters. Particularly since David Cameron – a self-declared "liberal conservative" (which in British English means "moderate conservative") – became leader of the Conservative Party, their support in the country has risen dramatically, however this is also due to the media-perpetuated anti-war feeling within the United Kingdom following Tony Blair's era, coupled with the unpopularity of Gordon Brown's government and recent polls.
Cameron could be seen as more moderate than many previous leaders. His party policies have gravitated towards a more "green" outlook as the concern about global warming has grown within the UK. He has also praised Britain's socialized healthcare system, the NHS; but has also considered privatisation of sections of the service in an attempt to decrease the deficit at which it currently operates. The party has also continued to support some traditional elements of Conservative policy, such as support for the family.
After forming the Coalition Government in 2010, Cameron's popularity rapidly declined, as indicated by various opinion polls conducted by the media. However, the Conservative Party gained a slim majority in the 2015 general election. During this time, the United Kingdom Independence Party grew to become a serious rival of the party, sitting on its Right.
Cameron pledged to reduce immigration to under 100,000 annually. Despite this pledge, immigration soared during his tenure to even higher levels than when he first took office. Immigration played a very influential role in the successful Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, along with other very important and related factors such as sovereignty and backlash against the leftist establishment elites who support large levels of immigration.
Theresa May and Brexit
Theresa May became Prime Minister after Cameron. She initiated the formal Brexit process and called an early election to be held in June 2017.
The Conservative Party shifted its public stances after the Brexit vote, adopting right-wing stances on Europe and immigration more similar to UKIP, something noted by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.This could be seen in the 2017 Conservative Party campaign manifesto, under Prime Minister Theresa May, which adopted some of UKIP's EU and immigration policies. Because of this shift, the Conservative Party absorbed many UKIP voters. However, the manifesto also called for some forms of government expansion and additional social spending, and the manifesto contained several worrisome pledges for conservatives and proponents of Brexit. Additionally, the manifesto rejected individualism and "untrammeled free markets", and May rejected statements that she was like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or that she would "drift to the Right." Noting the Conservative Party's past failures to reduce immigration in the recent past, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wrote an editorial at the time of the manifesto's release in May 2017 that the Conservative Party leadership opposed and never intended to keep its immigration reduction promises.
2017 general election
Due to several blunders made during the campaign, May's Conservative Party lost seats in a snap election she chose to hold in order to gain power, resulting in a hung parliament. As the Conservative Party remained the party with the most seats, May decided to seek a governing agreement with the right-wing, socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
- British politics
- British conservatives
- Conservative Party of New York State (CPNYS)
- American Conservative Party (ACP)
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